EPISODE 269: Sales Growth Expert Meridith Elliott Powell Shares How Reflecting on the Seeds, Weeds, and Needs Will Help You Thrive as Re-Opening Accelerates

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the CREATIVITY IN SALES MINDSET Webinar hosted by Fred Diamond, Host of the Sales Game Changers Podcast, on August 7, 2020. It featured business growth expert and sales speaker Meridith Elliott Powell,]

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EPISODE 269: Sales Growth Expert Meridith Elliott Powell Shares How Reflecting on the Seeds, Weeds, and Needs Will Help You Thrive as Re-Opening Accelerates

MERIDITH’S TIP TO SALES LEADERS: “Think about SEEDS, WEEDS and NEEDS. Every 30 days as a sales team sit down and I just want you to reflect. SEEDS are what are you doing that’s really working. What’s really growing the sales team? WEEDS are what’s weighing you down. What do you need to stop doing? NEEDS are what do you need that you don’t have? Color code your calendar to visually see how you’re doing. Anything that’s green is revenue generating; red is transforming the business to take it to another level and to get it ready for what’s after this pandemic and everything else is peach. If you look at my calendar in March and April, it was far too full with peach. Now I’m very careful to balance my calendar making me far more productive and thrive. SHED THE PEACH FAST and keep moving. You are your best sales coach!”

Fred Diamond: Meridith, it’s great to see you. I know you’re doing a lot of speaking these days, you’re doing keynotes virtually, of course, all over the place and we’re thrilled to hear your message today as are the people who are logging in right now to watch you on the webcast.

Meridith Elliott Powell: Fred, thank you so much, I’m excited to be here. One of the great perks of COVID is the fact that now I can do speaking engagements in different states twice or three times all in one day. Today we’re going to talk about one of my favorite topics and I really want to encourage people to call in with questions because basically what we’re going to be talking about is what you need to do to thrive in an uncertain marketplace and boy, are we experiencing an uncertain marketplace. Whoever thought a virus could so drastically disrupt our marketplace?

Businesses have shut down, social distancing has become the norm and it’s got us all wondering when, if ever, things are going to return to normal. What’s normal even supposed to look like now? It is enough to make us believe that maybe success isn’t possible, that there’s too many obstacles, there’s too many challenges in the way but nothing could be further than the truth. There is so much opportunity in today’s marketplace if you know where to focus, if you know where to look, if you understand the strategies it takes to thrive in an uncertain marketplace. That’s what we’re going to focus on for the next 30-40 minutes. What are the strategies, what are the things that you need to be doing to not only get out of the way of your own success but really put a strategy into place for sales that is going to ensure that you emerge successful?

Before we dive into those strategies, get pen, paper ready or put it into your phone, I need to give you a little bit of background, how I found these strategies, how I uncovered the methodology. A couple of years ago I became obsessed with the word ‘uncertainty’, how we think about it, how we feel about it, how we react to it and let me tell you, pretty much universally no matter where you are in the world, we do not like the word ‘uncertainty’. I discovered this when I started walking into businesses or working with those businesses that I was consulting and coaching with and I would ask the question, “How are things going? How’s business? How’s your sales pipeline?” Pretty much everybody answered the same way – you have to remember this is 2018-2019.

Fred, maybe we should have a moment of silence for 2018-2019, just remember how good things were back then [laughs]. But I would ask the question, “How are things going?” and people would say, “Things are great, things are good, in fact, we may be set for our best year on record.” But oh, this uncertainty, as if uncertainty was always this thing that we were waiting to show up to drop out of the sky to stop us dead in our tracks, it was the thing we knew that was going to prevent us from being successful. That just got me thinking, what if we flipped the script on that? What if we started to think about uncertainty not as a negative but as a positive? What if you started to think about uncertainty as the very opportunity you needed to take your business and your sales to the next level?

What if actually you couldn’t transform the business, you couldn’t reach your peak performance without uncertainty? That put me on a mission to find companies and organizations that had done that, that had actually started to use uncertainty as a strategic and competitive advantage. Let me tell you, there are not many but I identified 9 organizations that had been around since the late 1700’s, early 1800’s and they are still in business thriving today. That means not only have they survived World War, economic Depression, but they’ve survived a pandemic. What I discovered from them was what I call my formula for thriving in uncertainty, it’s the steps and the strategies of exactly what you need to do to put yourself in a position to thrive no matter what the marketplace does. Fred, I’ve got to tell you that my favorite things about these strategies are the fact that it works for any size organization, it works for any size sales professional. It doesn’t matter the industry you’re in, it doesn’t matter the customer that you focus on, it doesn’t matter the product that you sell. The 9 companies that I studied were so diverse but the methodology remained the same.

One last thing before we jump in and that is that I need to share a story with you and it’s a story that I think that you are going to relate to. Even though it’s my story, I think you’re going to see a lot of similarities. I don’t know about most of you, but this year started off strong for me. I don’t know if you remember bringing in the New Year but we were so excited, not only was 2020 going to be great year but it was going to be an amazing decade. Personally, I had my best first quarter on record and I thought I was looking at such a strong year, but probably like many of you, March 9th everything changed.

I make my living as a keynote speaker which means that I get on planes, I travel around the world, I engage with thousands of people and the week of March 9th, my entire revenue disappeared for 2020. Add to that, my business model became irrelevant – no longer could I do what I do for a living. I went through the stages, first thing I did was I panicked, I thought, “I’m going to have to sell everything I own on eBay, how am I possibly going to pay my bills?” Then I got mad. I thought, “This isn’t fair, this isn’t right, why is this happening to me?” Then finally I decided to take action. I didn’t know what I was going to do or where I was going to turn, but luckily for me I had been researching these companies and researching this book and I decided to eat my own dog food, drink my own Kool-Aid, however you want to state it, and I put these strategies into place in my own business. In a matter of 6 weeks, I completely turned my business model around. I met with my accountant last week and 2020 may be a better year for me than 2019 so these strategies work. If you take nothing else from your time with me today, I really want to flip your mindset on how you think about uncertainty because if you put these strategies in place, it’s going to put you in a position to not only emerge successful but succeed no matter what this marketplace does.

I’ve kept you waiting long enough, let’s go ahead and dive into these strategies. Strategy 1: if you want to thrive in an uncertain marketplace, if you want to succeed no matter what the economy does, you have got to begin by knowing your positive point. A lot of people call it a vision, but you have to know where you’re going and you have to have clarity of what it’s going to look like when you get there. A couple of years ago there was a great story about the boy scouts and a white water raft trip they wanted to take in Northern California. These boys had been planning this trip for over a year but as luck would have it, a couple of weeks before the trip they had torrential downpours. So much so that it took the class 3 rapids to class 5 and the guide and the scout master said, “There’s no way, we can’t go.” But boys being boys, they begged and they pleaded and they cried until the scout master and the guide gave in, but the guy said, “You can go on one condition: that safety talk that we do that is typically 30 minutes, we’re going to make it three hours long.”

During those three hours, the guide talked about all the obstacles they were going to hit on the river, they were talking about the down trees, the high water, the rocks, but as much time as he spent focused on the obstacles, he spent three times as much on the positive point. In other words, where the raft needed to end up and he focused there because he said, “Boys, if I only point out the obstacles, you’re going to hit the rock every single time but if I make you aware of the obstacles and I focus on the positive point, your boat is just going to be pulled to the positive point.” It’s the same way in our businesses and in our sales organizations.

You’ve got to have clarity on where you’re going and you need to talk about it first thing in the morning,  you need to focus on it at lunch and you need to close your day out thinking about where your organization is going to be. It doesn’t have to be as clear as a point on the river but you need to be thinking, “We’re going to be revolutionizing our industry, we’re going to be the most successful in our field, we’re going to be the most responsive to our customers.” Whatever it is, you’ve got to be clear on it and you’ve got to be articulating it and if you are managing a team, they need to be able to articulate it too just like those boys could on that river. I used to think things like this were fluff but they’ve now backed it up with neuroscience that what we planned in our brain, what we focus on is what we get more of. If you’re not spending three times as much focused on the reasons you can be successful versus the reasons you can’t, then you’re going to hit that rock, you’re going to hit that down tree and you’re going to hit that high water every single time.

Fred Diamond: That’s a great story. We’re taking some questions here that are coming in, do you mind if we take some questions from the audience?

Meridith Elliott Powell: I love it.

Fred Diamond: One of the questions is coming from Jerry who’s in New York and the question is, “What does success look like now?” We’re talking today with you on August 7th, we’re five months into whatever it is and if we had had you on in April or early May there’d still be a lot of fuzziness like, “What’s going to happen?” and, “How do I deal with this?” and, “Now I’m a homeschool teacher” and all this thing that’s going on. But right now we’re five months in so people have a better and clearer understanding of what it’s going to look like. There’s still a lot of uncertainty, we hear things every day but people are now, “This is what it is, now how do I be successful?”

You talk to tons of sales leaders and business leaders around the globe, what does the definition of success look like? Because I’m seeing a lot of people who are on today’s webcast and you’re absolutely right. In Q1 this was going to be the best year, we have a couple dozen people here who were preparing for this being their best year ever. For the Institute for Excellence in Sales this was going to be our best year ever and you know what? It still can be because of some of the things you just talked about. But what is the definition of success now in 2020? Is it surviving, is it doubling business? What’s some of your insights based on all the people you talk to?

Meridith Elliott Powell: I love this question because I am drinking my own Kool-Aid. It’s hard to clearly define success because there is so much uncertain right now but I think the definition of success and what I share with my clients is you want to be highly relevant to your customers. I think that’s a big definition of success, have you changed your products and services to be so dramatically relevant in today’s marketplace? Are you the go-to resource? Are you deepening and expanding existing relationships and is new business finding you because you’re a leader in the marketplace? If I had to sum it up, it would be really that you truly understand the shifts that your customers are going through and we’re going to get to that in a strategy, I’m going to give you some tools to get there, but you want to be highly relevant. What we sold before COVID and what we sell now, it has to solve a different problem and you want to matter, you want to be so incredibly valuable to your customers. I think if you start there, the rest of it is going to come.

Fred Diamond: Let’s go to #2, I’m excited.

Meridith Elliott Powell: Strategy #2. We have talked about the fact that I want you focused on the positive point and I want you minimizing the obstacles. At the same time, I don’t want to pretend that the obstacles aren’t there because the companies that I research were highly sensitive to the amount of change they were experiencing. Here’s the thing about change, we think of ourselves as good at change, in fact, you get the little change award if you adapt to it quickly, that’s not going to be enough to thrive in an uncertain marketplace. If you want to thrive in an uncertain marketplace, you need to be proactive with change, you need to be one step ahead of change. You need to be creating your future by predicting your future and I call it building your change muscle because change is like a muscle, the more you talk about it, the more you think about it, the more you predict it, the stronger and more resilient you’re going to be to change.

Change can be your greatest opportunity in this marketplace if you see it coming. If you ignore it or you wait for it to show up, it is going to flatten you. There’s a tool that I want to give everybody, Fred, listening to this and it’s a tool that we call a SCEPTIC, it’s nothing more than a group of words, that’s just the acronym. SCEPTIC stands for Society, Competition, Economics, Politics, Technology, Industry, Customers. All I advise my clients to do is every 30 days I want you to get your sales team together and I want you to brainstorm the things that you see happening outside of your industry and your marketplace. What that is going to do is #1, it’s going to get you thinking about the changes coming long before they’re coming. The other is it’s just going to make you really resilient and expecting change, all of you as a sales team. I just went through this with a major healthcare company that I’m working with, since COVID started we’ve been doing this SCEPTIC.

We are taking business from competitors like crazy because we’re anticipating failure, we’re anticipating merger, we’re anticipating acquisition and we’re anticipating slow-moving or reacting sales teams. We have got to start to think about conditioning ourselves for change, we’ve got to be good at it and strong at it and not wait for change to come but see it coming down the road and be one step ahead of it.

Fred Diamond: For the people watching today and listening to the podcast, not everybody’s doing that. There are so many people now, so many organizations, I applaud everyone who is watching today’s webcast. We have people from all over the world, thank you so much, listening to Meridith Elliott Powell and if you’re listening to today’s podcast you’re devoting time and energy to getting proactive and to putting your company and yourself, if you work for a company or you work for yourself, to be in position. There are so many people, Meridith, who are still afraid, who still haven’t budged, who are still doing things they were doing on March 8th that were going to lead them possibly to success and they haven’t made that shift. We’ve seen so many entities like that, I encourage everybody here who’s watching if you’re listening to the podcast to take Meridith’s advice because not everybody is doing the work necessary to make that shift that you need to do to still give 2020 the chance to be your best year ever.

Meridith Elliott Powell: Absolutely, there’s more change happening outside of your organization than inside of it and the only way that you can truly manage that change and use it strategically is to predict it, and that tool will just give you the opportunity to do it. Now, this next strategy is really one of my favorites but it can be a hard pill to swallow for sales professionals. Strategy #3 is that you’ve got to realize that in an uncertain marketplace the challenges that we’re facing, they’re too big for one salesperson, one sales team, one organization to solve. The competition that you’re used to competing with, they need to now become collaborators. Competition is now replaced by collaboration and we’re seeing this happen around the world, we’re seeing grocery stores that used to compete with one another work together to share supply chains, we’re seeing our governments around the world work together to try to find a vaccine, we’re seeing oil companies in a struggling marketplace work together to reinvent and reinvigorate, you have to do the same thing.

First of all, you’re no longer a lone sales professional, you need to start working really intimately and closely with not only the other people on your sales team but with the other people outside your organization. I also encourage you to look outside the walls of your organization and think about who you can collaborate with. It starts with understanding what your biggest challenges are right now, maybe you’re struggling to sell virtually, maybe you can’t really get customers to give you the time of day, maybe you sold into a market that is really in trouble right now and you need to get into another market. You can solve those problems on your own but what I learned from the research is it’s going to take you too many resources and too long to get up to speed, you need to think about collaborating.

Again, my client who’s in the healthcare space has so much business right now they can’t breathe but their team doesn’t know how to sell virtually, so I partnered them with a technology company that is amazing at selling online. But the technology company was selling into the restaurant industry and they’ve lost half their business right from the start, they’re helping one another get up to speed. I’m also working inside industries to help people educate the market as to what is available, I work a lot in the restaurant space and we’ve got to reeducate the marketplace as to why coming to restaurants is a good thing to do and how it’s safe. I can do that as a single restaurant, but if we pull our resources in any industry we can do it so much faster. Clearly know your problems and then work very closely, think about, “How can I shorten my learning curve here and how can I collaborate with others?” We don’t have time to compete, we need to make the room for collaboration.

Fred Diamond: It reminds me of the great expression that you can go fast alone or far as a team. We’re seeing a lot of collaboration in many places, at the Institute for Excellence in Sales we’re bringing some great speakers every day from all over the globe, people who are from different entities, if you will. Meridith, this really is the perfect time to be talking to you, you’re an expert on helping companies around the globe and like I said before, we’re kind of past the hump. What do you see? I know we just talked a few moments ago, you deal with companies, if someone’s going to bring you in, if someone’s going to hire you to come speak hopefully they’re embracing some of these great messages that we’re giving here. Do you see companies getting all in and do you see a lot of companies out there that are acknowledging where we are and bringing these forces together to make success?

Meridith Elliott Powell: Fred, I really divide this challenge into three phases and the first phase was we were all just in shock like, “We’ve got to furlough employees, we’ve got to get this PPP and get our loans and everything.” Now I think we’re in phase 2 which is exactly what you’re talking about, we’re basically over the hump. This is the growth phase where people are saying, “Okay, this is our reality, it isn’t going away in a couple of months, I still want to have my business, I still want to be here.” Ultimately we’ll go into the transformation phase but right now we’re in growth so businesses do want to do business, but these next few strategies that we talk about are really going to help you get clear on who you need to be doing business with, but make no mistake – we have turned that corner. There is opportunity in the marketplace, you need to be selling and you need to be going after business but you need to be doing it with the strategies that I am talking about today, that is mission critical that you do that.

Fred Diamond: We have a question here from Sheryl, Sheryl says, “Let’s get to #4.” Thank you Sheryl, appreciate it.

Meridith Elliott Powell: [Laughs] alright. #4 and #5 are my absolute favorite strategies. #4 is one of my favorites because it was fascinating to me that these companies that I researched were all different types of industries, all different types of customers but how they implemented this strategy was exactly the same. One of the biggest challenges in an uncertain marketplace is how you are going to make decisions. Here’s a couple of things I see, Fred, either people don’t know what to do so they’re stalled, they’re caught like a deer in the headlight or they’re grabbing at everything trying everything and they’re wasting valuable time and valuable resources – they’re spread too thin. Neither one is good, but how organizations make the right decisions in an uncertain marketplace is they’re clear on their core values. It is time to look at and update your personal core values as well as your organization’s core values and you use those core values as a guiding light and as a North Star.

Salespeople, I am talking to you right now, there are so many customers you can call on right now but you need to be investing your time and your energy on those customers that align with your core values because those are the customers who are going to remain loyal, they are going to go deep and wide with you, they are going to need your services. I want people selling from a place of power rather than a place of need, desperation smells and people can smell it a mile away. The last thing you want to be is desperate, you’ve got to know your core values and use it as your guiding light, you should use it in how you hire people, the customers that you bring on, how you decide what resources to spend money on. Those core values are what are going to guide you through treacherous waters and make sure you come out and you make the decisions that are right for you. Everybody who’s listening to this webinar, a decision that is right for you may be not right for somebody else and the only way to make the right decision is to be clear on your core values, get clear on who you want to be during this pandemic and who you want to be after this pandemic. That’ll get you there.

Fred Diamond: We talked yesterday on the Optimal Sales Mindset webcast about goal setting and our speaker’s name is Shawn Doyle, his basic message was keep your goals from 2020, keep the goals that you kept in the beginning of the year and stay focused on them and just put a different plan in place to get there if all these things happen. At the core, it was understanding your why or the values that you’re trying to achieve and that’s a great message that you’re communicating here. For the first three months of our Sales Game Changers webcast, service to your customer was one of the key messages. How can you be a leader to your customers right now when it’s a very difficult time for them and sticking to what you just said, sticking to your mission, sticking to the values that brought you into this business as it is are critical right now to help you get to where you’re going in 2020 and beyond.

Meridith Elliott Powell: It’s almost like a leap of faith. I sat in the same boat scared to death, watched all my revenue disappear so some business would show up that was not aligned with my core values and at first I took some of that business because I was so scared. Here’s what happened: I didn’t do a good job, first of all, it wasn’t a good fit. The second was it got my schedule so busy that when other opportunities that were more clearly aligned with my values showed up, I didn’t have the space to either let it in or align with it. What I learned from the research is it’s a weird leap of faith but these companies over and over again just said, “Does this align with our values? If it does, we’ll do it and if it doesn’t, we’re going to pass.” They did it with the products they sold, the people they hired, the people they promoted and most importantly the way that they sold and the customers that they focused on.

Here’s where we are right now because I want you to understand that these strategies work in order, I really need you to get clear on that positive point. I always like to share with people that if you got up with me in the morning – first of all, I’d look nothing like this – but you would see that I start my day every day by looking at my positive point. It’s just written on a note card and I focus there, I set my mind to the fact that I’m going to be successful. Once you have that positive point, then you allow the creativity in to really start to condition yourself for change. You’re going to see a theme in everything that I talk about, I’m trying to take you out of an uncertain marketplace being something you’re worried about to something that you feel more in control of.

You can control change if you see it coming and once you understand the change is coming, start to think about who you can collaborate with. When you think about who you can collaborate with whether it’s another business or somebody within your own team, back it up and align it with your core values. Fred, you set me up so perfectly for this next strategy because it aligns beautifully with the theme that you have been talking about here. When it comes to an uncertain marketplace – and we all still have goals, very few of us have lowered our goals for 2020 – it can feel like, “I”ve got to chase new business, I’ve got to chase new customers.” What I learned from researching these companies is in uncertain marketplace they don’t go after new business, they back up and it’s what I call securing your base. Going back to your existing customers and making sure that you’ve taken care of them first. Let me tell you why: there’s the surface reason that we all want to understand that we want to be of service for our customers, that’s what we do for them. Let me tell you what securing your base is going to do for you, securing your base is going to give you the magic, the language and exactly what you need to know to reshape your value proposition so it’s relevant in today’s marketplace. I’ve been telling my clients to go back 3 and 4 years, go back to anybody that you’ve done business with, call them up, check in, ask them a couple open-ended questions and then listen.

They’re going to tell you their challenges, they’re going to tell you their problems, they’re going to tell you their opportunities and your head ought to be going crazy with how your products and services either need to be reshaped or re-positioned or what are the next products or services you need to create. If you focus on securing your base, you’re going to create products and services that are so unbelievably relevant, you’re going to attract new business with them. I’ve got a page on my website (valuespeaker.com) and at the top there’s a purple bar called Emerge Successful. That’s a website full of free tools and resources to emerge successful, every tool and resource on there is created from a challenge or a problem that I heard from an existing customer from March. I use that website now to grow new business. Here’s the beauty of it, when I call on a prospect I look so different from my competitors because I am using my customer’s language. I’m not deciding what the problems are in the marketplace, I am listening to what my customers say. Secure your base.

Fred Diamond: Meridith, value is another word that has come up so frequently and that’s been probably the most common word that’s come up in the history of the Institute for Excellence in Sales. Mindset, creativity are others. This may take you off a little bit but another key word, Meridith, that comes up all the time is courage. If you could give us an idea or two, a suggestion, I know that you work with your partners and your customers and you’ve been speaking around the world, prior to the pandemic live, you’re one of the most in-demand sales and business and leadership speakers on the planet so we’re so thrilled to have you. Give us an idea if you could on how people can be more courageous right now. We’re talking about going back, just give us a tip or two on how that can be achieved.

Meridith Elliott Powell: The thing that I tell people about courage is because I think the people are fearful right now, I think that they’re worried right now, is you have to realize that this isn’t about you and get out of your own head. When I was a kid, my mother used to tell me that the fastest way to get past my own problems was to focus on somebody else’s and who would know that when I grew up, my mother would turn out to be right about everything? Right at the beginning when I told you I went through those first few phases and I thought that I was going to have to sell everything on eBay and then I got angry, I was focused on myself. When I was focused on myself I was fearful, I was insecure and I was afraid and the moment that I started to think about, “I’m going to run to the sound of the gunfire, I’m going to be the girl who shows up, who tries to help people in this crisis and the only way I know how to help people is I’m just going to call people and say I care, I’m interested, how are you?”

What I did was I reached out first to listen and that listening got me business. I didn’t reach out to get business because I think if I reach out for business people would have given me advice, but I reached out and said, “I just want to know what I need to be doing to help people in this marketplace, tell me what’s going on in your business. The shift to me in courage is I think we’re afraid because we’re wrapped in our own stuff, we’re worried about our own problems. I can’t fix a lot that’s going on, I don’t know when government’s going to come up with a new stimulus package, I don’t even know if they will, I don’t know when business is going to turn back on 100%, I don’t know which industries are going to make it and which aren’t. I don’t know what’s going to go on with my business but I can focus on what I can control.

I tell my clients, “Make a list of everything that you’re thinking and you’re worried about because if you don’t get it out, you can’t get past it. Then I want you to divide that list in what you can control and what you can’t control.” The difference between people who succeed and people who don’t – the only difference – is where they focus their time and energy. I think that’s amazing, it isn’t that people are lucky, it isn’t that they have more money, it isn’t that they have a better education, they are able to focus their mind on what they can control. You can make yourself nuts over stuff that you can’t control in this marketplace but success is not logical. You can all look back at your organizations right now and you think, “That’s a fluke that I’ve gotten as far as I have” because if you thought through it logically, it would have been a fool’s errand. You wouldn’t have bet $20 bucks on yourself, but you focus on what you can control, you get out of your own head and you really focus on other people and that is going to pull you right through this.

Fred Diamond: I know you have four more we want to get to but just a quick thing, Louisa says, “Great answer” and Martin says, “Right on” so thank you so much.

Meridith Elliott Powell: Thanks.

Fred Diamond: Alright, let’s get to a couple more strategies here, Meridith, you’re doing a great job.

Meridith Elliott Powell: I just got a couple more that I want to get through and this one is build your network and it will change your life. We’re all sitting here in a virtual world and we think that our networking opportunities are over but I want to remind you that people who succeed in an uncertain marketplace are incredibly well-connected and they’re massaging and they’re using that network. They’re using this opportunity to reach out and connect to people. You are only one connection away ever from somebody who could solve a problem for you, open a door for you or get you one step closer to your goal. I think that’s incredible and all you’ve got to do is connect and network with them.

For people who sell, if you never want to make another cold call then you ought to be networking like crazy but I just got to tell you a quick story that a research from the book around networking that I love. I am a big golfer and I had the opportunity to interview Tom Fazio who is arguably one of the most successful golf course designers in the world. Fred, Tom grew up near you in Philadelphia but Tom grew up really poor in what is known as a little steel patch town outside of Philadelphia, and he always had this dream of being a golf course designer but Tom didn’t even go to college. He was lucky enough to go to work for his uncle who was a golf course designer but his uncle was a bit of a crotchety old fellow and made it pretty clear to Tom that he was never going to get the business. Tom had nowhere else to turn, he had no money, he had no education, he had no connections but he had a dream to be a golf course designer so every year he would scrape up enough money – which was really hard because he eventually married and had 6 kids, he was so broke – but he would get himself to the Masters which is arguably one of the most famous and well-attended golf tournaments in the world, probably.

Tom just believed that by osmosis he could get to the Masters, that he could build the company that he wanted. Now, Tom’s courses are continually in the top 10 in the world and today he can trace every single golf course that he has designed in his career back to somebody he met at the Masters. So, my challenge to you is what’s your Masters? Where do you need to be going to really interact and connect with those people who can help you get to your positive point and achieve your dream? I am such a believer that if you build your network, it will change your life and it is mission critical in an uncertain marketplace.

Fred Diamond: I recommend to all the people watching today, make your Masters the Institute for Excellence in Sales.

Meridith Elliott Powell: I love that, absolutely.

Fred Diamond: As a matter of fact, I see some people here who have been great members and have helped a lot of sales professionals around the globe. We see some great people here from a lot of our member companies and a lot of new people too, so thank you all for chiming in. Meridith, we’ve got time for a couple more of your points and then I want to ask you for a final action step that you can give our audience to thrive, to be more successful.

Meridith Elliott Powell: Quick two more, I’ll roll those together. If you do have a team, if you surround yourself with people whether they directly report to you or not, you’ve got to understand that in a marketplace like this, who you’re surrounded with is incredibly important. Jack Welch, the legendary leader of GE used to say that as leaders we need to focus on three things: cash flow, customer experience and employee engagement. But I argue that Jack Welch led in a much different time when we had more time and more resources because if you focus too much on cash flow, you can alienate customers and employees but if you focus your time and your energy on employee engagement, you’ll drive an incredible customer experience, you’ll build an unbelievable team and you’ll drive cash flow.

What people around you want whether they directly report to you or not, you need the people around you. No longer are salespeople lone rangers, we’re dependent upon the people who work around us, learn to lead through the power of the question. You get to decide what you need and what you want but when you ask people how, you simultaneously give them voice and responsibility. You give them skin in the game, you turn on intrinsic motivation. You want that customer service department to go to the mat for you, get them involved, tell them what you need and then ask them how to deliver that, they’re going to be a part of your team and engage in that.

It’s really about stop thinking about yourself as an island and who you surround yourself is an unbelievable competitive advantage. Even if they don’t directly report to you, you have unbelievable influence over that if you stop telling and you start asking. I’ll wrap this up by saying my last strategy is to shed fast and keep moving.

Fred, you started us here talking about just how fast our world is changing and one of the biggest things that I learned from these companies is that what worked in March won’t work in July, won’t work in October so I’ve got one quick tool for you and it’s called a seeds, a weeds and a needs. Again, I tell my clients every 30 days as a sales team I want you to sit down and I just want you to reflect. Seeds are what are you doing that’s really working? What’s really growing the sales team? Weeds are what’s weighing you down, what do you need to stop doing? Needs are what do you need that you don’t have? I’ll tell a quick story on myself and that is I do this on my own business every 30 days and by the end of April I looked at my own calendar and my seeds were I was doing a lot of reach-out which was really working. My weeds were I was so busy but I wasn’t productive and I found what I needed to do was start color-coding my calendar.

If you looked at my calendar right now, anything that’s green is revenue generating. Anything that’s red is transforming my business because I need to take my business to another level and to get it ready for what’s after this pandemic and then everything else gets peach. If you look at my calendar in March and April, it was far too full with peach. Now I’m very careful to balance my calendar making me far more productive so shed fast and keep moving. You’re your best sales coach, I think, so look back and reflect on that. There you got it, those are the steps, those are the strategies you need to put in place.

Fred Diamond: Meridith, thank you so much. We’re getting nice notes here from James saying, “Thank you so much, Meridith”, Cynthia says, “Thank you so much.” We’ll use the seeds, needs, weeds as your final thought because it was so powerful. I want to thank you again for all the great work that you’re doing for sales, business owners and companies around the globe, I encourage everybody to go to valuespeaker.com to learn more about Meridith. Again, we had you scheduled to come to Northern Virginia to speak live but we definitely want to get you when things start opening up and we do things live again, you’re doing such a great job. For all the people who are watching today’s webcast and listening to the podcast, thank you all so much. Meridith Elliott Powell, thank you so much.

Meridith Elliott Powell: Thank you.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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